|L-R: Rachel Smyth and Serena Manteghi in ECHOES. Photo by Carol Rosegg.|
Henry Naylor wrote The Collector, the first of the three plays forming his Arabian Nightmares trilogy, in 2014. The following year he wrote the second of the three plays, Echoes, which won the Spirit of the Fringe Award at Edinburgh before going on to play at 59E59 Theaters as part of that year’s Brits Off Broadway program. Despite our having been quite impressed by both of the performers in that production - Felicity Houlbrooke and Filipa Braganca – we were disappointed in the play itself which we thought was “little more than a superficial diatribe seeking to establish the moral equivalence between the excesses of British colonialism and the horrors of Islamic terrorism and proclaiming the eternal victimhood of women and ethnic minorities at the hands of men and Western Europeans.” You can read our full review of that production at "2016 Echoes Review."
|Avital Lvova in ANGEL. Photo by Carol Rosegg.|
Angel, however, is another matter entirely. Having premiered at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival and winning two major awards, the play garnered 18 well-deserved four and five star reviews before arriving at 59E59 Theaters in midtown New York. And it is this production of Angel – including Avital Lvova’s absolutely bravura performance as Rehana, The Angel - that makes this dual entry of Angel & Echoes in this year’s Brits Off Broadway production truly worth seeing.
Angel was inspired by the story of the young female Kurdish freedom fighter known as The Angel of Kobane who was reputed to have shot 100 ISIS fighters when they overtook her small town of Kobane in Syria. In Naylor’s interpretation of the story, Rehana was a strong-minded peace-loving young woman who would have much preferred pursuing a career in the law but who found herself forced by circumstances to take up arms against her oppressors. It is an empowering and exhilarating play that focuses on women’s strengths rather than their victimhood and it is Avital Lvova’s performance that makes it especially memorable.